Patch of EKO Cobra
|Branch||Federal Ministry of the Interior|
|Role||Domestic Law Enforcement and Counter-Terrorism|
|Garrison/HQ||Wiener Neustadt, Austria|
|Nickname(s)||As Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando: GEK
As Einsatzkommando Cobra: EKO
EKO Cobra (Einsatzkommando Cobra) is Austria's primary counter-terrorism special operations tactical unit. It is not part of the Austrian Federal Police but is directly under the control of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior.
The Einsatzkommando Cobra, formerly known as GEK (Gendarmerieeinsatzkommando) was formed in 1978, primarily as a response to the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Its main office is in Wiener Neustadt, with sub-offices in Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior changed the unit's name from GEK to EKO Cobra in 2002.
The 450 men of EKO Cobra have trained with some[which?] of the most elite special forces units.
The EKO Cobra was involved in a hostage rescue in the Graz-Karlau Prison in 1996 and numerous other operations. Although it has never participated in the same type of hostage rescue operations that the HRT, GIGN, GIS, NSG, ERU, GSG 9 and the SAS have had, the EKO Cobra is the only Counter-Terrorism unit to end a hijacking while the plane was still in the air. On 17 October 1996, four Cobra officers were on board an Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-154 escorting deported prisoners to Lagos when a Nigerian man threatened the cockpit crew with a knife and demanded a diversion to Germany or South Africa. The team overpowered the man and handed him over to the authorities after landing. The officers received a decoration by Russian prime minister Putin.
Recruitment and training
Any member of the Austrian Federal Police may apply for the EKO Cobra. The tests consist of medical examinations, psychological tests and vigorous physical tests. Upon successful completion of the tests the recruits attend 6 months of specialized training which includes marksmanship, tactical training, sports, driver courses, abseiling/rappelling, hand-to-hand combat, language classes, etc. Besides the courses taught in the basic training, further specialization is possible in fields, such as parachuting, diving, explosives or sniping.
Since its establishment in 1978, 1,140 officers have served in EKO Cobra.
The unit's headquarters is located in Wiener Neustadt (Lower Austria). It performs all administrative activities and the training for the EKO Cobra officers. Further departments exist in Vienna, Graz, Linz and Innsbruck with small field offices in Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Feldkirch.
Each department contains four teams and each field office contains two. This structure allows the units to be deployed anywhere in Austria in less than 70 minutes.
EKO Cobra is armed mainly with Austrian weaponry, but sometimes foreign-produced arms are used too.
They are equipped with many Steyr-manufactured weapons, such as the Steyr AUG (military designation: StG 77) assault rifle, the sniper rifle Steyr SSG 69 including its sound-suppressed variant and the 9mm Steyr TMP machine pistol. Glock pistols are used as sidearms, the most common being the Glock 17 and Glock 19 semi-automatic 9×19mm Parabellum pistol along with the Glock 18 with full-auto capability.
Other types of weapons, like the Manurhin MR 73 revolvers, the Franchi SPAS-12, Remington 870 and Heckler & Koch HK512 shotguns, the MP5A3 or Heckler & Koch MP7 sub-machine guns or the MZP-1 40 mm grenade launcher are also used depending on the situation.
EKO Cobra use a variety of equipment designed for a variety of situations.
EKO Cobra officers wear the uniform of the Austrian Federal Police with certain modifications:
- Maroon beret to indicate their elite status
- The unit's insignia is worn instead of the police insignia
- The rank insignia's background is black instead of red as from the regular Federal Police uniforms
During tactical operations the officers wear grey or black coveralls along with their tactical gear.
Austria's capital city, Vienna, has its own counter-terrorist SWAT team, WEGA (Wiener Einsatzgruppe Alarmabteilung). It is trained to similar standards and is capable of handling serious situations such as hostage taking.
- Nilsson, Jeff. "Top 10 Most Dangerous Special-Forces Around the World". www.therichest.com. The Richest. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
- Loinig, Matthias. "Charred body of Austrian gunman found in bunker of house". www.austriantimes.at. Austrian Times. Retrieved 9 February 2015.
- Spiegel TV Spezial: Einsatzkommando Cobra - Ausbildung einer Elite-Einheit. Fernsehreportage, 2006
- "30 Jahre "Cobra"" (PDF). bmi.gv.at. Retrieved 2012-08-01.
- "Österreichische Sondereinheit: Cobra, übernehmen Sie! - Kriminalität". FAZ. 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- (German) Official website